21 Things to Do Before Asking for a Divorce - Part 2
9. Learn How Much It Costs to Run Your Household
Whether you plan to stay in the house or leave, you won't know how much money you need unless you know the monthly costs of running your household. If you pay the monthly bills, your job is easy. If you don't, look through the family computer files (if you pay online) or the checkbook—see how much you pay in monthly rent or on your mortgage; check utilities, including electricity, heat, and phone; and look at sundry costs from snow plowing in winter to lawn care and gardening in spring.
One woman we know, a well-educated social worker with a full-time career, didn't know the first thing about the family's monthly expenses because her husband's secretary made out the checks and paid the bills from the office. She was embarrassed to confess her “ignorance,” but she is hardly alone. The point is, even if this woman hadn't been contemplating divorce, every adult should know these basic details.
10. Determine Where You Will Live Following Separation
If you're the spouse who plans to move out, decide where you're going to live and figure out how much it will cost, month-by-month, beforehand. Maybe you plan to move in with your romantic interest. Although that might be tempting—it might be the reason you want to divorce—it might also be a case of going from the frying pan into the fire. How is your spouse going to react when you want to bring the children there? Will this make your case a thousand times more difficult to settle? Will your spouse have an adultery claim that can hurt you later? If you answered any of these questions with a “yes” or an “I don't know,” move somewhere else. Look through the real estate advertisements to learn about rents. Consider what it will cost to move, and calculate start-up expenses, including telephone installation and turning on electricity and cable.
11. Start Saving Money
One unemployed wife of an electrician wanted a divorce immediately. Her friend, a paralegal who worked in a law firm specializing in divorce, convinced her to hold off for a while. Instead, the friend advised her, it would be best to wait a solid year before starting the divorce action. During that time, she was instructed to save money—enough, hopefully, to be able to pay the rent for a place of her own after she asked for a divorce. It wasn't easy, but the wife saved enough to move out and pay rent for a year. As it turned out, the judge ordered the husband to pay her monthly rent until the divorce was final; but without the initial savings, she wouldn't have been able to move out in the first place.
12. Build Up Your Own Credit
If you don't have credit cards in your own name, apply for them now. You might be able to get them based on your spouse's income, and you will probably need credit later. Use the cards instead of cash and pay the entire balance by the due date every month. Don't charge more than you can pay; you'll be creating even more problems for yourself!
13. Stay Involved with Your Children
First of all, this is important for your children—especially because they will need all the support and reassurance they can get during the turbulent times ahead. In addition, because courts consider the depth and quality of your relationship when making custody and parenting time decisions, such involvement now could translate to more time with your children and the likelihood of shared custody after the divorce.
Do a self-check: Have you been so busy earning a living that you've let your spouse bear the brunt of child rearing? If so, now is the time to reallocate your priorities. If you have school-age children, help get them off to school in the morning, help them with homework at night, and help get them to bed. Learn who their teachers are, who their pediatrician is, who their friends are. If your children are not yet in school, spend as much time with them as you can before and after work. Be an involved parent—for now and for your future together.
14. Withdraw Your Money from the Bank
If you fear your request for divorce will send your spouse straight to the bank, withdraw half of the money in all your savings accounts first. Place the money in a new account, and keep it there until you and your spouse can work out the distribution of property. Do not spend the money if at all possible. If the money is in a checking account and you know the account is nearly emptied every month to pay bills, do not withdraw any of that money; you'll create financial havoc if checks bounce.
15. Consider Canceling Charge Cards
If you pay the credit card bills, consider canceling your accounts—or at least reducing the spending limit. In one case, the wife's announcement that she wanted a divorce sent the husband on a $50,000 shopping spree—and she became liable for the home entertainment system and the Jacuzzi (installed, incidentally, in a house she stood to lose). If you cancel or reduce lines of credit, of course, you must inform your spouse to save embarrassment and, later, anger. You can say the family needs to cut back, which is probably going to be true.
16. Decide How to Tell Your Spouse
Here, you might need professional advice or advice from a battle-worn friend. Would your partner accept the news more easily in a public place, such as a restaurant, or in the privacy of your home? One husband we know delayed telling his wife he wanted a divorce because she threatened suicide each time he mentioned separating. The wife was an unsuccessful actress with a flair for the dramatic who dropped her suicide threats once the husband agreed she could take over their apartment. Still, some threats must be dealt with seriously. If you're afraid your announcement will send your spouse off the deep end, be sure that you have consulted a professional counselor beforehand. Although there is often no way to lessen the hurt and rejection, a professional therapist might be able to supply you with strategies for leaving your spouse with as much of his or her self-esteem intact as possible.
17. Decide How to Tell the Children
You might want to consult with a professional. Would the news be best coming from the two of you together or from one of you alone? One husband we know planned to tell the children that he was moving out on Christmas. He thought that would be a good time because the whole family would be together. His lawyer tactfully suggested he choose a different day.
18. Take Property That Belongs to You and Safeguard It
High school yearbooks, jewelry, computer disks, your collection of CDs, your grandmother's family heirlooms, whatever—if it indisputably belongs to you and you fear your spouse might take it for spite or leverage, move it out of the house. If you have several such items, move them out slowly, over time, before you announce your plans. Depending on the size of the objects, you might store them in a safe-deposit box, a storage facility, or the home of a trusted friend.
19. Don't Make Any Unnecessary Major Purchases
When there are suddenly two households to maintain, you might find your financial freedom drastically curtailed. The number of people who buy brand new cars while they're starting divorce proceedings is staggering. The payments could financially devastate you, and your spouse can use the existence of your new car as proof of your ability to pay for all sorts of other expenses. Sorry, guys and gals: Resist.
20. Make Sure That Your Spouse Is the First to Know Your Plans
Although you might consult with friends before you take the plunge, be sure that they know if word gets around before you have told your spouse you want a divorce, it could spell trouble for you down the road.
21. Stay in the Marital Residence If Possible
Depending on your circumstances and the laws of your state, you could weaken your position on custody and possibly your personal or marital property if you move out. You should discuss any plans to move from the marital residence with your lawyer before making a decision. As always, take immediate action if abuse is at issue.
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